How viral '6-to-1' grocery shopping could save time and money, and cut food waste

Food content creator Will Coleman went viral on TikTok for this idea.

January 19, 2024, 7:15 AM

For some, grocery shopping can feel like a chore. For others, it's an exciting part of the pre-cooking creative culinary process. Whichever bucket you fall into -- or if you're somewhere in the middle -- in this economy, keeping costs down is a top-of-mind priority for nearly every home cook.

Will Coleman, a Brooklyn-based food content creator and recipe developer, crafted a foolproof system to get through the aisles with ease on your weekly shopping trip and get cooking more often at home, thanks to his now-viral 6-to-1 method, which has taken over TikTok and Instagram.

"The idea behind the 6-to-1 method really comes from me being tired of a few different things: wasting money, food waste and spending hours in the grocery store trying to figure out what to buy and what to cook throughout the week," he told "Good Morning America."

Coleman said he created the system "to take control of my wallet and my time."

"I'm very surprised with how popular [this] has become," he added, reflecting on all his content over the past two years. "Great content has to have value to it. It has to pour into someone's life in a positive way. I think this method is doing just that."

Grocery shopping is an increasingly popular niche among food creators, Jenn Lueke has previously shared her similar strategy by shopping with a meal plan and grocery list in mind to save on money and get a weeks worth of food on the table for under $75.

What is the 6-to-1 grocery shopping method?

The idea behind the 6-to-1 method, Coleman said, is "that you hit the grocery store one time a week, maybe two times if you have a larger family, but our time is very valuable. So the 6-to-1 method is really designed so you can go into the store, say, on a Sunday and get all the groceries you need throughout the week."

The 6-to-1 method, which has also been called the 5-4-3-2-1 method by others, follows a simple idea for a weekly shopping trip: "When you go to the grocery store, you come in knowing exactly what you're going to get."

"You're going to get six veggies, five fruits, four proteins, three starches, two sources of spreads, and of course, one fun thing for yourself," he explained.

Individual dietary needs may vary, but Coleman loves bulking up with six veggies, which he said is a great way to save. "You may be surprised at how cheap veggies are compared to processed items," he said.

"Simple things like onion and garlic, that's already two," he added of the alliums he uses in almost every meal. "You could throw in a few different fun items like salad mixes -- or any fun vegetable that sounds good to you or is on sale -- and you'll be surprised at how fast you eat through it when you're cooking at home daily."

When it comes to adding fruits and veggies to the cart, he said you should feel free to "lean on things like canned vegetables or frozen vegetables or fruits," especially if it's a better fit for your budget or an item that may be out of season.

He emphasized that this method is a way to "create a strong foundation for shopping."

"Some days you may need five proteins compared to four proteins, but that's way better than buying 10 proteins that you're probably never going to use," Coleman concluded. "It's just a way to get people on track, save money and have more fun cooking and be more explorative."

Save money on food with the 6-to-1 shopping method

"The 6-to-1 method has saved me hundreds of dollars," Coleman told "GMA," "especially being a person who works in food and is always creating content, [who] also enjoys cooking at home for my family."

He added that the method has also saved him "an invaluable amount of time."

Coleman said going into the store with a set plan has stopped him from overspending on items he doesn't need or may not use.

"I'm not throwing out food at all. When I go to the grocery store, I come back home with my particular groceries for the week, I know exactly what I have in my fridge, the exact meals I'm going to make, and I know how to use all the ingredients," he explained.

He also suggests going a step further and having "a few [recipes] in mind that you may want throughout the week." For example, "avocado toast with scrambled eggs, a salad or a burrito bowl, maybe pasta for dinner one day, so that you know you need these things."

Coleman notes that you may have to adjust the amounts based on your household, so a family of four may need "two packs of chicken breasts so they can stretch a little bit throughout the meals, compared to a couple that may only need one pack."

Additionally, he said this method has helped him "eat healthier, because we're starting off with fruits and vegetables compared to more processed items. That's a win for me."

"A big piece of feedback that I'm receiving is that people are being more explorative with their diets," Coleman said of the social media users who have adopted the idea. "They're not eating the same thing over and over and over. Maybe they're going to the store and grabbing six veggies every single week to test the waters when it comes to cooking dinner or lunch or breakfast."

Will Coleman's best grocery shopping tip

"My biggest tip is to have confidence in the store and try to plan things out before you get there," he said. "Open up your notes app on your phone and jot down the 6-to-1 method."

He also encouraged home cooks and fellow creators to connect with him on social media and his website, where he said he would be dropping more food inspiration to make the most of those groceries.